is not uncommon to find built-in tuners in many of the multimedia-rich desktop
PCs. After all, the cost of placing tuners in the large desktop machines is fairly
inexpensive and easily accommodates the PCI card needed to hold the electronics.
On the other hand, tuners in laptops pose a problem due to limited space. ADS
Technology has solved the problem with the introduction of their new MiniTV USB
tuner. This little device is the size of a fat memory stick and provides a way
to tune an analog channel, digitize it and send it over the USB 2.0 interface.
The USB devices features a high bandwidth SMB-style coaxial connector that mates
to the short antenna cable. On the other end of the antenna cable is the familiar
F-connector, commonly used for cable TV or an over-the-air antenna. In our case,
we made use of a rooftop antenna since we do not have cable television. While
it is possible to use a pair of rabbit ears for reception, it will typically not
provide users with the quality picture they might expect. We found this to be
the case with virtually every NTSC tuner we have used and the MiniTV USB tuner
is no different in this regard.
supports television, photographs, music and video all in a single application.
The PVR (Personal Video Recorder) allows users to pause live TV and use the PC
as a buffer. This feature does require some good processing power and performance
may vary. Previously recorded program can be played back much like a standard
DVD. TV shows captured from the tuner can be written to Video-CD or DVD media.
Music can be ripped from CDs and stored as WMA or MP3 formats. The audio tracks
can be grouped to create custom playlists or written back to recordable media.
Photos come alive with the slideshow application for which the duration and transition
of each photo can be defined by the user. Detailed photo information (time stamp,
thumbnail, resolution, file name, and file size) can also be enabled to help the
user decide what files to use in the presentation. The information is displayed
with larger fonts to help us visually impaired folks. There is even a one-click
redeye removal feature with auto enhance and crop capability. The final slideshow
can then be burned to a disc for playback in a DVD player. Also included is ArcSoft's
MediaConverter software designed to take video content and convert it for playback
on an Video iPod or a Sony PlayStation 3.
The MiniTV USB is a great product that adds standard NTSC television capability
to any computer, whether it be a laptop or desktop. In our experience a good antenna
or cable feed is required for this product to produce a good picture. It is possible
to use rabbit ears or a similar setup, but limited reception may hinder picture
What we liked about the MiniTV
USB product was the small package and inexpensive price.
The setup was simple and it was easy to install. Video and audio are streamed
directly from the external tuner over the high-speed USB 2.0 port so there is
no extra cabling needed between the tuner and computer. The Ulead software has
many features and the web-based Advanced Programming Guide provided by TitanTV.com
makes programming simple and efficient. For under $80, you can have the ability
to create time-shifted recordings with full access to the media as it is recording.
- Kevin Nakano